Rethinking Kandinsky

by AryanArtnews
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The Guggenheim website suggests one way to display Wassily Kandinsky: Around the Circle: “Kandinsky’s work begins in his later paintings and progresses upwards along the spiral ramp of Guggenheim, in reverse chronological order.” Now, the wheels, ribbons, and ladders are dark purple. Let’s start with the “square ribbon” (1944) hanging on the background of. Then proceed to the “Dominant Curve” (1936). In this curve, a larger green, red, and white ribbon surrounds the brown and yellow central form. As you walk, you will arrive “upward” (1929). Here, the right half of the face, set on a dark blue background, is reminiscent of the work of Paul Klee, a Bauhaus Kandinsky colleague. Going further up, you can see the difference between the “blue circle” (1922), in which various shapes such as triangles and trapezoids float from the blue circle. And then there is the “Black Line” (1913). This is a field of rounded green, blue, red, and white shapes connected by fine jagged black lines. Next is “Sketch for Composition II” (1909-10). Kandinsky is returning to abstraction in this high-pitched landscape of horses and riders, and many others. Then go to “Group in Crinolines” (1909), which depicts a group of men and women wearing hi-hats in a pastel-colored scene by Marcel Proust. The show ends at the top of the ramp with some of his early landscapes from 1905.

Unusually, such retrospectives allow viewers to arrange their works in some sort of visually apparent chronological order. However, it is not easy to reconstruct the development of Kandinsky’s career and to understand the importance of individual paintings. Until very recently, the works of Kazimir Malevich, Vladimir Tatlin, and other pioneering Soviet abstractionists were relatively inaccessible, and the important Swedish painter Hilma Af Clinton was completely unknown. .. However, Kandinsky has long been very well known in New York. The non-objective painting museum, the predecessor of the Guggenheim Museum, which currently holds 150 works, opened in 1939. So it makes sense to ask what you can learn from the 80 painting shows in this collection.

Wassily Kandinsky, “Three Sounds” (Drei Klänge) (August 1926), oil on canvas, 23 5/8 x 23 1/2 inches. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection, Gift 41.282 (© 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris)

As the catalog shows, Kandinsky had a complex background. Born in Moscow in 1866, he studied Central Asian ethnography and law in Russia, moved to Western Europe in the early 20th century, and lived and worked there (mainly Germany) until the war. As pointed out by art historian Reinhard Spieler, it is important that Kandinsky chose to paint in Munich after a short, unproductive stay in Paris around 1907.So he formed an expressionist art group Blue knight (Blue Rider) —And where he avoided having to deal with cubism. Then, shortly after the Russian Revolution of 1917, and after the frustrating administrative activities of the art world in 1921, he returned to Germany and played an influential role as a Bauhaus teacher. When Hitler came to power and closed the school in 1933, Kandinsky moved to Paris and died in 1944, shortly after the Allies liberated the city.

Kandinsky’s decisive leap took place around 1910, when all of his paintings changed and he moved to abstraction. From this show, it is not visually clear how he reacted in his art to his move from Munich to Moscow to Germany and finally to Paris. Kandinsky was passionate about veteran pedagogues explaining himself. His collection of works on art is 900 pages long. Looking at the “Around the Circle” show, you can see that he abstracts art from nature and gradually removes the figurative hints of his landscape, as he explains in this literature. increase. Much of his writing motivates the movement by explaining the importance of color expression.For example, yellow is “a typical earth color. […].. If you cool it with blue … it will be a morbid shade. Therefore, his interest in synesthesia, and the similarities between painting and music. Kandinsky became friends with composer Arnold Schoenberg and realized that by dismantling traditional musical structures, atonal music faced some of the same concerns as the exclusion of figurative subjects. He also identifies in his writings the expressiveness of another “essential and eternal immutable painting language” that he calls form. This theorization justified the development of his abstraction. If the essential elements of a painting are color and shape, then the following is that a figurative subject is essential.If you walk in the opposite direction in Guggenheim under When you display the ramp, the representation element is gradually removed so you can see the process.

Wassily Kandinsky, “Blue Mountain” (Der blaue Berg) (1908–9), oil on canvas, 41 3/4 x 38 inches. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection, Gift 41.505 (© 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris)

In Paris, the theorizing and cubism associated with Henri Matisse and Fauvism went in completely different directions, but neither led directly to abstraction. So, in retrospect, it’s no wonder Kandinsky didn’t stay there. He was interested in what the catalog calls “mysterious anarchism.” This is a very Russian “concept of spiritual and ethical change” that is not closely tied to actual political behaviour. That said, my sense of the challenges facing this show is clearly stated by Sean Scarey (Sean Scarry).Abstract painting, art history, politics.Sean Scarey and David Career in Conversation, 2021):

Kandinsky’s landscape paintings, which lead to his abstract paintings and his circular paintings, were the work of a purely illustrious genius. What I’m not interested in is a painting that looks like it’s made of Greek hieroglyphs. It cannot actually be decoded.

Look back at “Several Circles” (1926), with one large circle and many small circles hanging on a gray background. Here is a gorgeous and clear image of Drop Dead. Another problem with Kandinsky’s abstraction I’ve described is that it doesn’t provide enough immediate visual information to “crack” the color and shape representation code. In the extended 33-page text “Recollections / Three Pictures” (1913), Kandinsky provides an elaborate description of the three paintings, but unfortunately none of them are present at this show. He describes his childhood experiences, talks about his education, and elaborately theorizes these works. When too much information is needed to identify expressive content, it’s clear that photos aren’t communicating effectively on their own.

Kandinsky stands in front of his painting “Dominant Curve” (Courve Dominant, 1936) in 1936 (Photo: Vibriotake Kandinsky at the Pompidou Center in Paris. © Lipnitzki / Roger Violett / Getty Images)

It may be unfair to make this request, especially for people like me who are not very familiar with his upbringing in the Russian Orthodox Church and the impact its visual culture has on his artwork. It is certainly possible to appreciate the play of the colors and shapes of these paintings without questioning their meaning. So, without accepting Kandinsky’s own apparently outdated description of his achievements, we can certainly enjoy them. But what are we missing? This ambitious exhibition calls for a rethinking of the work of canonical abstractionists, who appear to be far from the present. It will be most interesting to see how the artist reacts. Fortunately, we have months to visit and revisit.

Wassily Kandinsky: Around the Circle It will continue until September 5, 2022 at the Guggenheim Museum (Manhattan, 1071 Fifth Avenue). This exhibition was curated by Megan Fontanella, a curator of contemporary art and Provence...

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